Admit it, you are guilty. You feel a pain and you head to the Google, to find out what is wrong and how to fix it. STAHP IT! I am totally guilty myself. I know better, but sometimes I don’t want to admit something is wrong, so I look for ways to self-remedy. This does me no good, usually only delaying my recovery. It can be kind of confusing, sometimes. Training for long distance races comes with some assumed mild discomfort, the question is how much and what type.
In my mini-series Runners for Dummies, I wrote a chapter on taking care of your sick or injured runner. This article included a great, easy to use guide in trying to determine whether you have an injury or regular muscle soreness.
If you are looking at the chart and thinking you have a relatively minor injury, go ahead and give yourself a small break now before the problem gets worse. You may be able to continue to run at a decreased pace and distance. This is where working closely with a coach can really help.
My rule for seeking medical advice, when in doubt check it out. No matter how detailed you are when you are searching online, you cannot be diagnosed by strangers on the internet. The worst part is the horrible stories and extreme cases that almost always pop up. When I was struggling with basic shin splits, by the time I was done with the internet, I was convinced I had a stress fracture and was about to spend six months to a year in a boot. A week of treatment and I was running pain free. The other issue with searching online, the conflicting medical advice you can find. Anyone can have a website or post videos to youtube. There is no screening process. Doing the wrong things can further injure your and delay recovery.
So you have an injury, how long should you rest before seeking treatment. Well, that depends. I rolled my ankle last week, it swelled up immediately and had a bunch of bruising to go along with it. I know the basics, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). I went through the process, multiple times that evening. I still woke up with a big fat, bruised cankle. Normally, I would give myself a week or two. I played soccer for years, through high school and college. This wasn’t my first cankle. However, I am only weeks away from my goal race. I wanted to ensure I did not have a more severe injury and that I was being as proactive as I could in returning to running. I got in to see a physical therapist the very next day. So timing of the injury, can impact how I long I will let the issue resolve itself.
Many running injuries are not sudden injuries due to an accident. Instead running injuries are most often overuse injuries. When I suspect this type of injury, I will try to decrease my mileage and pace for a few days. If I continue to have issues, I will take the next step and take some time off. Most overuse injuries will improve after 1-2 weeks of rest. If after that time I am still having issues, I will get checked out by a doctor of physical therapist.
Whether your pain resolves itself within a few days of easier mileage or you decide to seek treatment. You need to address not only the symptoms, but the cause. Increasing speed or mileage too quickly is a common error for runners. Be sure to resume training gradually, so you don’t wind up sidelined again. Respect the recovery process. Slow down your easy days, take time to stretch and foam roll. Warm up and cool down appropriately for your speed workouts. Adding in strength training can also be a big help in preventing injuries.
Working with a coach can help you avoid injuries. If you have found yourself with a string of injuries, one after another. A coach can really help you train smarter and help you get out of that negative cycle. A coach can give you strength and stretches that will compliment your training program. Coming off and injury, working with a coach can help ensure that you return to running at a safe rate.
Injuries suck! Don’t rely on internet advice to get you back to running.